Friday, November 30, 2012

Holidays, Check-ups, Movies, Firewood, and Winter Life

I don't have a lot of pictures for this post.  Mostly because I didn't take many!  The big game season is over now.  I didn't get a buck this year (mostly because I didn't hunt hard enough!) although I did fill my turkey tag.  I saws dozens of does but the only buck I saw was racing after a doe and I didn't get a shot.  The weather has been lousy this fall.   Rain, rain, and more rain with just a little bit of snow.  It's like we live in Seattle.  It's hard to get into the hunting mode!  We have more rabbits (snowshoe hares) this year than I've seen in years.

We've made a few trips to Kalispell for various things.  Scott had his two-year check-up last week.  The doctor confirmed that he's a happy, healthy two-year-old.  (Which we already knew!)  We did a face-to-face with an online prepper friend which turned out well and has potential for further plans.  We saw the remake of Red Dawn which we enjoyed immensely.  It's best to think of it as a new movie and not make comparisons to the old standby with Patrick Swayze.  There's more action in this one and I'm not going to say more and spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet.  There's the usual nonsense from Hollywierd but we still plan on buying a copy on DVD when it comes out that way.

Other than that it's been business as usual for this time of year.  We've both been devoting time to writing.  Susan is putting up a website to go along with her Poverty Prepping book.  Her blog by the same name is doing very well as are book sales.  She now has a print version of Poverty Prepping available.  The price is reasonable at $4.50 (Christmas special price) plus shipping directly from her at her blog.  The normal price is $5.00 plus shipping.  I won't know until mid-December how my book is selling when I get the royalty check for the first three months' sales.

One of our unplanned trips to Kalispell was after a call from Scott's parents.  Their car died on the highway going home around midnight so we headed out to get them.  We spent the night in Kalispell then took the alternator off the next day and disassembled it to find the problem.  It needed brushes but you can't buy just the brushes and none of the parts stores had a remanufactured unit in stock.  I did a few things to get that one functioning temporarily and Stephen and I drove back out and re-installed it on the car.  It made it into town okay and they ordered the part for it.  They put it on a couple of days later.

One of the symptoms of worn brushes is that the alternator will charge then quit then charge again until it eventually quits altogether.  Many times you can rap the alternator smartly with the plastic or wood handle of a screw driver and it will begin charging again.  What happens is the brushes get shorter and shorter and the spring tension can no longer push them through the brush holder and against the commutator rings.  By rapping the case you jar some of the carbon loose that's making the brushes stick and they make contact again ... for a little while anyway!  In their case the carbon build-up was too hard and I had to scrape it loose from the inside after taking the alternator apart. 

Another rainy day on the road to Kalispell!  This time it was for Scott's check-up.  Note the lack of snow.  The lake is Dickey Lake.  It's usually one of the last to freeze over in winter.  What's unusual is that it's also one of the coldest lakes in the summer time.

When Scott's getting tired or fussy one of us gives him personal attention so the other can get some work done.  Here he's sitting on my lap looking at himself in the computer using the computer's camera.  It's one of his favorite games.  He's playing with my pipe.  (I don't smoke.  It's more like a prop for photo shoots!)

We heard the che chickens squaking and saw them running for cover then this guy showed up in a tree nearby.  You gotta' feel sorry for chickens.  They're pretty low on the food chain and we have to protect them from coyotes, eagles, hawks, ravens, foxes, skunks, raccoons, weasels, badgers, bobcats, bears, and mountain lions. 

I cut down a couple of trees for firewood yesterday.  We finally got a short break in the rain so I took down two small trees that have been dead for a couple of years.  The slash is still on the ground where the cat is walking.  Scott and Susan came down for a bit and Scott did some exploring.

We're potty training another one (number eight!).  That's one of the things we though we were finished with.  Scott added his own twist to it though that none of the other kids thought up. 

It's a good thing he had a dry run!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Grizzly Bears, Firewood Cutting, and more.

The bear came back ... but I had the game camera set up this time so I got a few decent pictures of him.  I put the chicken food inside the chicken house but there was still a little grain on the ground from where I'd scattered it for the chickens.  The bear finished it off and hasn't been back since.

We're still trying to figure out if it's a black or grizzly bear.  The claws are prominent and he has a bit of humped shoulder which both might indicate a griz.

And he has a somewhat dished face look about him plus the small ears.  The nose is a little long for a griz but the problem is that none of these features are all that visible and he could be a black bear.

And this, of course, doesn't give us a lot of clues either except that he hasn't forgotten where I kept the feed barrel.  Oh well, griz or black I'm not going out at night without at least my 44 magnum strapped on and only then after the dog has done some recon.

I set the solar panel angle at their "winter" position.  The sun barely clears the horizon this time of year so the panels need to be almost vertical.

I've probably posted pics of these before but they're an example of how water was piped when steel and PVC pipe wasn't available.

I stopped here for a short break while hunting.  It's about 300 yards from the cabin.

The deadbolt lock cylinder died so I had to replace it.  I had to do a little wood removal to fit the new one. 


We've had a lot of overcast days and have run the generator a couple of times to fully charge the battery bank.  Unfortunately it takes gasoline so we had to refill some of the gas cans.

Victor brought his pickup over so we could install some used rear springs.  He bought new center bolts and "U" bolts so all we had to do was cut the old ones off and install the new parts.  The torch made that job a lot easier.

I used the circular saw with a metal cutting blade for some of the cutting to conserve oxygen and acetylene.

This tree has been leaning a long time so I decided to cut it down before it got too big. 

When they lean that far you have to be careful that they don't "barber chair" when you cut them.  A barber chair is when the tree falls prematurely and splits.  The danger is that the base may fall any direction including backwards so you need to be careful when cutting them down.

It's on the ground without incident.  The wood is green so I'll put it under a tarp to be used for firewood next winter.

These are some odds and ends of firewood we had laying around.  It was nice to get them cut, split and stacked.

Scott is holding his stuffed dino up to the TV to show it to Barney.

Friday, November 9, 2012

1-8 November, 2012 - Black Bears, Taters, Tires, Fires and Splitting Wood

We had a visitor last night.  The dog was barking her fool head off about 12:30 so I went to investigate.  I expected another skunk trying to get at the chickens but it was a large black bear that had dumped out the chicken feed and was enjoying his feast.  (At least he left the chickens alone.)  The dog was smart enough to just sound a warning and not engage him although the bear was pretty much just ignoring the dog.  When I arrived with the flashlight and shotgun the bear ran off about 30 feet and stopped to look me over.  I kept walking toward him and he took off for good. He was a pretty bear.  His back and front third were jet black and the middle section was chocoloate brown.  He was so fat he was almost as wide as he was long.  He'd better go find a place to den up before someone puts his hide on the wall and the meat in the freezer.  Maybe I should load one side of the shotgun with a slug from now on.

Winter is closing in and we've been playing catch-up since we got back home.  The weather has been overcast most of the time with some light rain so we had to run the generator once to fully charge the battery bank.  If you've never lived on solar power it's not good to run the batteries in a consistently undercharged state.  If the sun hasn't fully recharged them after a couple of days we run the generator to top them off. 

I called the Forest Service and we now have open burning so I torched three of our brush piles.  It was too wet the first time and I couldn't keep the fires going so I waited a couple of more days to try again.  They still didn't burn completely so I'll have to hit them again next spring.

The nice thing about winter weather is that we have the wood heating stove going and we can cook on it.  I just fried up some bacon and I'm now cooking eggs in that skillet while I make toast next to it.  When making toast we fold the aluminum foil over the top.  Otherwise the bread curls.

We finished digging potatoes in the garden.  We were fortunate that the ground hasn't frozen yet.  The harvest wasn't great this year.  We should have watered it a couple of times during the summer.

These are some of the spuds laid out in a storage room to cure a few days before being stored in the root cellar.

These are some that are sorted and ready to be placed in bins in the root cellar.

Susan's peeling potatoes for supper while I put a patch on a tube.  It was too cold outside to apply the rubber cement.

The patched tube, ready to re-install in the tire.  This is off one of the wheel barrows.  We have two wheel barrows and often consider buying a third one.  They are the workhorses of the homestead.  Garden carts are okay for many jobs but wheel barrows are more versatile.

It's time to get the winter tires on the Cherokee.  Usually we run studded snow tires in winter but this year they're just snow tires without studs.  We plan on spending a lot of the winter in places where there is no snow or ice!

I have my own tire machine (purchased from Harbor Freight Tools) so I mount/dismount our tires myself. These are used snow tires in almost new condition that we got for free (almost).

I had a fair sized stack of firewood from last year left over so I put most of it in the wood shed without splitting it (I didn't have room there last year).  I split this batch because it's what I call "trash wood" (it burns fast and not as hot as fir and larch).  I want to get it burned soon before it gets real cold.


Each row is 2/3 of a cord of firewood.  I filled up one row and part of another then had enough left to fill a wheel barrow before I quit for the day.

These are from one of our kid's garden.  It was their first attempt at gardening and they had more than they knew what to do with so we brought these six pumpkins home with us.  They'll make great pies and pumpkin bars.  They had a good crop on everything that they planted but learned some important lessons as well.  The most important will be the new fence they'll put around it next year.  Deer are pretty to see but they love fresh garden produce.  It tkes a good fence to keep them out.  They estimate a 50 percent loss to deer over the summer.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

31 October, 2012 - Roto Rooter, Electric Chain Saws, Home Again ...

It's nice to be home again although we miss the warmer weather and friends and relatives down south!

One of the trophies I got building the deck.  The drill slipped and I ran the screwdriver bit into my thumb.  It's healing nicely.

The joys of home ownership!  While we were at my mother's house the sewer pipe became clogged with tree roots so Roto-Rooter was called in to fix it.  One of the tiles about thirty feet from the house had partially collapsed and the tree growing overhead had plugged the drain pipe.  He got it opened up again but recommended that some repairs be made.  Estimates put them (new pipe and double clean-outs) around $800.00.  It should be done within a month. 

Small children love to follow the examples of adults.  Here Scott picked up a section of the newspaper and joined Susan in "reading" it.  Pretty soon though, he was snuggled in her lap while she read the paper.

I've never owned an electric chain saw and my stepfather had three of them so I gave them a test run.  The first one is run on 19 volt batteries.  It wasn't impressive at all.  A bow saw would be faster by the time you change the batteries every couple of minutes.

The two saws that used a power cord did well.  This little McCulloch cut like a champ and was difficult to bog down.  It did make more noise though than the saw shown below it.

The best one was this 3.5 HP, 16 in. Craftsmen saw.  It was fast and comparable to the majority of gasoline powered mini-saws in that size range.  Of course you're limited by the power cord but if you're looking for a small saw to use around the home place it wouldn't hurt to keep in mind one of these electric models.  They're much easier on the ears!

We headed for home, stopping once more at Paladin Press in Boulder, CO on the way.  I took a few photos while there.  We picked up another 30 of my books along with a few written by other authors.  I get a substantial discount due to being one of their authors.

This is coming over the pass between Livinston and Bozeman, Montana (heading west).  I used to live about four miles south of where this photo was shot. We were six miles beyond the closest power line.  It was my first experience living off-grid. 

This is Scott in his bee costume and his mother getting ready to hit the streets trick-or-treating.

His mom and dad are swinging him between them as they walk down the hill.  Scott loves it!

After making the rounds, Scott was busy as a little bee checking out DVD's and Computer games.  He had a blast once he figured out that people at the houses would give him candy.  He'd hold onto whatever they gave him until he got to the next house then he'd drop that handful of candy to make room for whatever they gave him there.

Now there's more wood to be cut, split and stacked, and I need to put the winter tires on the Cherokee.  Hunting season is in full swing as well with trapping season open for water trapping (beaver, otter, muskrat, mink).  We're way behind and are playing catch-up now.  I guess boredom won't be a problem any time soon!